I knew from the moment I was pregnant that I would breastfeed. I had an all-or-nothing view of breastfeeding. My mother breastfed me for 9 months during the 1980’s when this was not common. My practical knowledge was minimal as I had only seen my sister-in-law nurse her two children and I attended Julie Merrill’s breastfeeding class at French Hospital. Little did I know that on December 4th, 2010 I would start a journey that would change the trajectory of my life. It ignited a passion in me that continues to grow over 4 years later.
My daughter Kate knew what she was doing but her inexperienced mother did not. Due to not breastfeeding enough after birth she got jaundice and lost more than 10% of her weight. Thankfully, we were referred to the French Hospital Breastfeeding Clinic and lactation consultant, Merrilee Costello, educated me, reassured me, and gave me confidence in my ability to mother my child. Years later, I would go on to volunteer at the Breastfeeding Clinic weekly for 3 years and counting. I also joined the Central Coast Breastfeeding Coalition and have been communications chair for 2 years. My primary focus is the Coalition's website and Facebook Page.
Kate and I had our ups and downs, but the ups were so worth it!!! We stumbled our way through the first year and when we hit the mysterious 12 month mark we did not even pause. My original goal was 12 months but it came and went, as did 18 months, and 24 months, and I weaned her around 2.5 years old. I weaned her gently by cutting a feeding here and there and slowly spaced nursing sessions. I know Kate would have continued nursing for years. She loved it so much but I was ready to have a break before her brother Patrick arrived in the summer of 2014.
I could go into all the specifics of my nursing experience but the real story is how the act of sustaining my child’s life solely through my body has empowered me as a mother, wife, and woman. I had a dogged determination to exclusively breastfeed my child but that is only one part of the equation to my success. My story would be very different today without my "Breastfeeding Team" which includes; the "Baby-Friendly" hospital I delivered at, French Hospital, the wisdom of my pediatrician, Dr. Bravo, the skill and expertise of my lactation consultants Merrilee Costello, Andrea Herron, and Kathleen Huggins, my resources to stay home with my child, our excellent health insurance, and my amazing support system of my husband, mother, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, relatives and friends. The list could go on and on.
Determination to meet my breastfeeding goals was a crucial part of my success, but it was only one part. The support and resources available to me were the main reason I accomplished my goals. This is the wisdom I have gained over the last four years. I rarely speak to a pregnant women who does not want to breastfeed, but the barriers to breastfeeding are abundant in a child’s first year of life. This is why I work to promote breastfeeding support and resources on the Central Coast. Every woman and family deserves to provide their child with the best start in life that they can. Our society has a long way to go in truly supporting woman to meet their breastfeeding goals. Our community has amazing people and resources working tirelessly to educate, nurture, and empower families and I am honored and thrilled to be among them.
If you would like to learn more about breastfeeding resources on California's Central Coast, such as free support groups, telephone support, lactation consultants, and pump rentals, go to www.centralcoastbreastfeeding.com.